Lura Rowland was a young teacher when she came to Indian Territory in 1897 where she intended to start a school for Indian students. A blind woman from neighboring Arkansas, Lura had noticed the need for education for the blind and visually impaired in Indian Territory.
She found a home for the school in the old barracks at Fort Gibson. Located within the Cherokee Nation, but on land rented by the United States Government, the Cherokee Nation allowed Miss Rowland to repair the dilapidated buildings and make them usable for the students.
Lura appealed to Congress for funding to operate her school, but found none. Instead, it was with the help of the Cherokee and Choctaw Nations that the “International School for the Blind” was established. In 1900, the Cherokee council granted $300 for the operations of the school. At the time, half of the six enrolled students were Cherokee. The Nation would continue funding the school until statehood in 1907.
In 1913, the school, renamed the Oklahoma School for the Blind, moved to its current site in Muskogee, Oklahoma. Two years later, Helen Keller visited the school. The Oklahoma School for the Blind is the only such institution in the state, and retains a high population of native students, many of whom are Cherokee Nation citizens.
This transcript is from the video produced by Osiyo, Voices of the Cherokee People, Cherokee Almanac: The Oklahoma School for the Blind. To see more videos about the Cherokee Nation visit osiyo.tv. The video is courtesy of the Cherokee Nation Businesses.